Highlands Inn in Bethlehem gets a new lease on life
By John O'Connell
Highlands Inn, the much-loved lesbian bed and breakfast in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, could have faced some drastic changes over the past year. After over twenty-five years of service to the resort, founding inn-keeper Grace Newman decided to sell the property in 2011. As is typical with the warm and welcoming nature of the property, Newman sat down to explain her decision to long-term, repeat guests, such as Jenny Wackerle and Gia Koumantzelis. “We were there last July for vacation and Grace sat us down and said she was retiring,” explains Wackerle. “Our first reaction was, ‘Oh no!‘ But on the way home we said to ourselves, ‘Wait a minute. Is this something that we should do?’”
After ten months of soul-searching and research, the Newburyport couple decided to become the resort’s new care-takers. “The opportunity came in front of us and it was something we were supposed to do.” When asked about fears regarding the change in their careers from social work to the new direction as inn-keepers, Wackerle responded, “Any life change involves fear. We’re grounded in our love of this place. It’s a wonderful place [and an] important piece of our community. Grace built a beautiful place.”
Loyal guests come from as far away as Canada, Seattle, Florida, and California for what has become a destination resort. “It’s wonderful to be in a place where we can be who we are. [Much of] society gives us tolerance and acceptance, but [this inn] gives us a place of joy in a way that’s truly special.” In addition to the idyllic and serene mountain setting, guests come for the local attractions of golfing, zip-lining, moose watching, white water rafting, hiking, cross-country skiing, and the close proximity to Bretton Woods and Cannon Mountain ski resorts. But for all there is to do, Wackerle holds that it’s the inn’s unique atmosphere and the relationships that develop there that are its most important traits. “People come here to relax and be with other people, to settle around the fireplace for conversation, to recharge and relax in a reaffirming environment.” The resort continues to host weddings with original owner Newman’s partner Maria available as a Justice of the Peace!
The couple speak of their new venture almost as if it was a calling. “It’s not about us, it’s about the inn,” says Wackerle. “The inn is her own entity and we’re just here to move her forward. I’m so grateful for our community. People are calling to see how we’re doing, to make reservations, The community wants us to be successful! [They’re grateful] someone from the family took it over.” [x]
Bethlehem, New Hampshire
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